This is my fourth article about wine in the Portland Daily Sun.
Terroir is a word that gets thrown around a lot in magazines and at wine shops, but the word, being French, can be intimidating to people just getting into wine. Terroir doesn't have a good simple English translation. So I'm going to take today's column and explain what terroir is.
Terroir is the concept of an agricultural product expressing the unique qualities of the environment that created it. It applies to not just wine, but other foods such as cheese too. So everything in the environment that influences the way the vine grows and the resulting wine's taste counts as terroir. The type of soil, terrain of the vineyard, grape variety, weather, sun, and culture can all play a part in it. Take for example one of my standby table wines: the Clot del Pila Roussillon. Roussillon is a region down on the Mediterranean border with Spain in southwest France. Clot del Pila comes from right by the Spanish border where the Pyrenees come down to the Mediterranean. The vineyard of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan grapes faces the ocean and soaks up a fantastic about of sunlight from both the sky and sea. The hills are hot and dry everything seems to happen a slower pace. It's also a place where the Catalan culture of northern Spain spills across the border.
All that matters because you can actually taste it in the Clot del Pila It's big, juicy, and envelopes your palate with this really ripe, warm, sunny fruit. Behind the fruit there's a slightly peppery dried out earthy taste that's totally a product of that sun dried soil and the wild rosemary and thyme that grow in the hills. The clot del Pila is so bight, sunny, and laid back tasting that it doesn't taste completely French to me. If I didn't know and just tasted it a glass of it I might mistake it for Spanish; that's more of the terroir: the Catalan wine making culture! It doesn't taste quite like other French wines because the people that make it aren't quite French and speak Catalan! It's got so much terroir that it's like a little piece of the Mediterranean in a bottle. That's terroir!! And it's about 12 dollars.